Baron Corbin has to retain the United States Championship at the SmackDown exclusive Clash of Champions on Sunday night. There's really no reason he shouldn't. Corbin won the belt in a triple threat match with Tye Dillinger and then-champion AJ Styles at Hell in a Cell back in October, and it was nice to see him walk out even as a mid-card champion following a rough summer.
But Corbin has a pair of challengers this weekend who should not to be taken lightly: former NXT Champion Bobby Roode and two-time World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler. One has been over with the WWE Universe ever since his promotion to the main roster while the other, well, just seems there for the sake of being so.
The facts are simple. If the long-term goal is to have Corbin taken seriously as a heel, he needs to keep the US Title for a bit longer.
How Corbin got here
The summer was rough for Baron Corbin. After winning the Money in the Bank briefcase to a tremendous pop from the crowd back in June, Corbin's dreams of being WWE Champion were snuffed out in the blink of an eye right before SummerSlam. On the go-home episode of SmackDown Live, Corbin interrupted a match between John Cena and then-WWE Champion Jinder Mahal and attempted to cash in his Money in the Bank contract, only to get pinned by the Modern Day Maharajah in less than 10 seconds following a distraction from Cena.
Things didn't get better for Corbin, who lost clean to Cena just days later at SummerSlam. After over a year of being built as a massive heel with a take-no-prisoners attitude, Corbin was suddenly portrayed as a whiner who cried and complained every time something didn't go his way. Thus, when he won the belt from Styles at Hell in a Cell, it was nice to see him be taken seriously again.
To have him lose the belt after just over two months with it makes little sense and if Corbin's slow climb back to the top is destined to continue, he'll score the victory on Sunday.
Another reason Corbin must win on Sunday is his competition. Roode debuted as a babyface on the SmackDown after SummerSlam after a lengthy heel run in NXT, and the WWE Universe have embraced him in this new role just as much as he has embraced the role itself. Roode initially called out Corbin right after Thanksgiving and, at age 40, could be short on time in terms of meaningful championship runs on the main roster.
However, because Roode has been so embraced by the crowd since August is just why he shouldn't win on Sunday. He's so over as it is that winning a belt would only make fans cheer louder. Barring a major shift in character and/or moving away from the "Glorious" gimmick, there is not much a run with the United States Championship would do for him.
Ziggler's inclusion in the match is the million dollar question everyone is trying to answer. His gimmick as of late has been imitating other WWE Superstars' entrances, only to walk out to no titantron graphics or music when he is being introduced himself, but that's been getting stale. Rather, as he mentioned in a recent backstage segment, he seems to be of the idea that his winning several championships in the past, including the US Title, is why he is in the match.
To be perfectly honest, the real fight here is between Corbin and Roode, with Ziggler (who has hinted he may leave the company soon) either along for the ride to take the pin or sneak a surprise victory.
The match itself
The best way to book the match is simple: make Corbin look strong while also getting Roode over in defeat. Ziggler's performance should be on the back burner 100 percent because, as was just mentioned, the meat of this feud is between Roode and the champion.
Corbin needs to get in plenty of offense and toss both Roode and Ziggler around accordingly. This means at least one Deep Six, maybe even an End of Days where one or the other kicks out. The same goes for Roode, who needs to hit the Glorious DDT on somebody. Ziggler can even land a Zig Zag or a super-kick if the bookers are so inclined.
The one thing that is an absolute must is that Corbin must score the pin. He doesn't even have to hit his finisher to do it because rolling Roode up could be great for upping his heel heat.
What cannot happen under any circumstances is for Corbin to lose the match, especially if he takes the pin. The man debuted on the main roster at WrestleMania 32 in Dallas and immediately won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal for a reason, and that is because Vince McMahon and Triple H see something in him. Moreover, why else would he have won Money in the Bank? Were it not for his rumored backstage heat, he might have the WWE Championship around his waist right now.
Corbin has climbed too high and come too far to just be pushed down the card once again after a short US Title reign and if WWE are smart, they'll continue to build him up at Clash of Champions.
Do you think Corbin could survive another big loss at Clash of Champions? Let us know in the comments below!